Watch Sixty Years of Nasty Presidential Campaign Attack Ads

Sixty Years of Nasty Presidential Campaign Attack Ads

Many political commentators speculated that once Mitt Romney put Paul Ryan on his ticket, the campaign would become one about two competing visions for the country, finally a campaign about substance. But just days later, the 2012 presidential campaign is already turning into what many commentators say is one of the nastiest and most personal campaigns in modern times, with one side accusing the other of coming “unhinged,” while the other invokes charges of anger and hate.

However, going negative is nothing new, as this montage of 22 presidential campaign ads, from Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson through Romney and Obama, clearly demonstrates. Thanks to a retrospective from the Museum of the Moving Image, which compiled dozens of presidential campaign spots from 1952 through 2008, viewers can dive deep into the fascinating history of a unique brand of television advertising. This montage represents the breadth of strategies and styles over six decades of presidential political wars in the media.

Sixty Years of Nasty Presidential Campaign Attack Ads

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Remembering the Heroes: The Flight 93 National Memorial

Remembering the Heroes: The Flight 93 National Memorial

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the U.S. came under attack when four commercial airliners were hijacked and used to strike targets on the ground. Three of the planes hijacked by al-Qaeda on that day hit their high-profile targets: the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nearly 3,000 people tragically lost their lives. Because of the actions of the 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93, who fought back against their hijackers, an intended attack on the U.S. Capitol was thwarted.

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Vice-President Biden, state officials, bereaved relatives, artists and members of the public gathered Saturday to open a 1,500-acre national park on the outskirts of Shanksville (PA) that includes the partially completed Flight 93 National Memorial, in honor of the 40 passengers and crew members who died on United Airlines Flight 93.

The dedication of the memorial on Saturday, provided an opportunity for the two former presidents to appeal for unity. Neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton specifically mentioned the fractured state of relations in Washington. But their sharing of a stage and their comments here in the field where Flight 93 slammed into the ground stood in sharp contrast to the current state of divisive political discord.

Dedication of the New Shanksville Memorial

Former President Bill Clinton: Dedication of The Flight 93 National Memorial

The Flight 93 National Memorial in The Making

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Yellow Cake: A Modern Parable of Terrorism and Devastating War

Yellow Cake: A Modern Parable of Terrorism and Devastating War

Yellow Cake is a short animated film by the award-winning Canadian animator Nick Cross.  Cross explains that he got the idea for the film in 2003, in light of speculation during the Bush administration that Iraq was buying uranium powder called “Yellow Cake.”  Yellow Cake Uranium was one of the Weapons of Mass Destruction that Iraq allegedly possessed.  Cross’s fantastic animated epic becomes a modern parable of terrorism and catastrophic war, a lamentable tragedy featuring geopolitical bullying, social unrest and worker revolt. In the end, as with most revolutions, the revolt is both crushed by foreign intervention and corrupted from the inside until it becomes as evil as the regime the workers had originally fought.

Yellow Cake initially lures the viewer into a tale of pleasant mirth, filled with adorable blue creatures who spend all day baking and then eating their own  exquisitely delicious yellow cakes.  However, by the end of the film the small town of happy little bakers has been driven to terrorism by the greed of their leader and cake-hungry fat cats, resulting in the town’s ultimate catastrophic destruction.  It seems that no matter what they do, the oppressed have no hope left.

Yellow Cake: A Modern Parable of Terrorism and Devastating War

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President-elect Obama Arrives at the White House

President-elect Obama and Michelle Obama arrived at the White House for their first visit since Obama’s landslide election victory.  President Bush and first lady Laura Bush were at the South Portico of the White House to greet the Obamas on a sunny fall day with moderate temperatures and colorful autumn leaves.

The Obamas’ arrival had the look of a foreign head-of-state state visit.  The Obamas were driven up to the South Portico, where they were welcomed by the Bushes and escorted into the Executive Mansion that they’ll call home in a little more than two months.  Just a couple moments later, Bush and Obama were seen walking along the White House Collonade to the Oval Office.

President-elect Obama Arrives at the White House

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Standard Operating Procedure: People Behind the Abu Ghraib Abuse

Standard Operating Procedure: The People Behind the Abu Ghraib Abuse

Academy Award winner and documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure is an inquiry into the prisoner torture and abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. It is, predictably, a very bleak and depressing movie. But the very scale of Standard Operating Procedure, which in its expensive-looking production values, special effects and elaborately choreographed re-enactments, shows that Errol Morris has grown weary of working in the dimly lit outer fringes of motion picture productions, to which documentary filmmakers are still too often relegated.

Standard Operating Procedure is a big, provocative and disturbing work, although what makes it most provocative is that its greatest ambitions are for its own visual style. In sweeping strokes, the documentary addresses many of the issues that abound when government-authorized torture is accompanied by that very government’s public denial of responsibility, leaving young male and female soldiers bereft of anything except their own poorly-informed tactics.

Morris explains that a major force driving the project was the profusion of photographs that were taken by the American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison that document, in horrifyingly graphic detail, the prisoner abuse that those very soldiers helped to perpetuate. Morris and his documentary crew “set out to examine the context of these photographs,” attempting to uncover what had happened within the accepted narrative about the torture. For him the photographs functioned as both an exposé and a cover-up because while they revealed the horror, they also “convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything.”

Morris wasn’t convinced that he had seen everything. He made this movie, which at its finest and most focussed, tries to investigate how seeing both does and does not evolve into understanding. To that end, Morris employed two familiar documentary strategies: direct-address interviews and re-enactments in which actors re-enact actual historical events. As a tactic, the interviews with some of the soldiers who actually carried out the torture and abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison could have enabled the documentary’s subjects to speak for themselves, to raise their own voices.

Unfortunately, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that even when those subjects are able to speak from the vantage point of looking back in retrospect, they are only capable of providing, or willing to provide, anything more than defensive testimonies on their own behalves.

It is testimony to a government’s pervasive moral vacuum.

Standard Operating Procedure: The People Behind the Abuse

Abu Ghraib Iraq Prison Abuses, 2003

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Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

Let us not forget that on Saturday, March 8, 2008, President Bush announced that he had vetoed legislation that would have banned the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods, such as waterboarding, to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that he said have prevented attacks. The bill that he rejected would have provided guidelines for intelligence activities and has the interrogation requirement as one provision. The bill would have limited CIA interrogators to the 19 techniques that are allowed for use by military questioners. In 2006, the Army Field Manual banned the use of methods such as waterboarding or sensory deprivation on uncooperative prisoners.

Therefore, at this moment in history, let us not forget what is still being executed by our government. Rather than simply describing it as an “advanced” or “enhanced” interrogation technique, let us call it by its proper name: Torture.

Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

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